US-stung Jaswant, RSS speak in one voice
Samata rues Delhi snooze on Central Asia
Sniffer dog dies of hoax fatigue
Hooch tragedy claims 17
Terror-fear boost to Tada clone
Topple-wary Laloo rings safety alarm
Girls fight ragging with stick
Jamat to share power in historic irony

New Delhi, Oct. 6: 
There is no love lost between the RSS and foreign minister Jaswant Singh, but, for once, their views seem to be in near-perfect sync. The subject in question: the US stand on the terrorism in Kashmir.

While Singh expressed his disenchantment with Washington for overlooking Islamabad as a sponsor of terrorism, RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan was quoted by agencies as saying in Jammu yesterday that �India should fight its battle (in Kashmir) on its own instead of depending on any other nation.�

In an interview with BBC�s Hardtalk, Singh, regarded as a US acolyte by the Sangh parivar until recently, was quoted as saying: �The fight against terrorism simply cannot be through compromises.�

He reportedly said Washington had employed Islamabad as a �tool� while accepting the �ground reality� (of Pakistan-backed terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir) and that it was for the US to decide what was best for it.

Stressing that no country could be expected to fight India�s battle, Sudarshan was quoted as saying that the US had joined hands with Pakistan and �it will see its interests and not that of other countries�.

Within BJP circles, the RSS chief�s remarks were construed as a �mild disapproval� of the way the Centre was going out of its way to offer help to the US in its fight against terrorism.

The latest gesture was the Prime Minister�s letter to US President George W. Bush, seeking his help to combat terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir after the Srinagar strike. Just a couple of days ago, RSS spokesman M.G. Vaidya had said there was �nothing wrong� in Atal Bihari Vajpayee�s missive to Bush because it did not amount to calling for America�s direct intervention in India�s internal problems.

But with the US and its key ally, the UK, remaining non-committal on Pakistan�s role in abetting cross-border terrorism � despite Singh�s diplomatic blitz � the Sangh as a whole seems to have reconciled itself to the fact that for strategic reasons or otherwise, India�s neighbour had emerged as the frontline state for the Western coalition.

The RSS chief urged the government to attack and destroy the terrorist training camps in Pakistan, although he did not mention the country by name.

�Under the new international law, every nation has the right to attack any country which is involved in aiding and abetting terrorism and destroy them (the terrorist camps),� he said.

In the weeks to come, it is likely that the BJP would pick up the cue from Sudarshan and give a cry for an all-out war against Pakistan-inspired terrorism, which may just stop short of bombarding the terrorist hideouts in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The BJP youth wing�s convention next week in Agra is expected to set the tone and tenor of a renewed burst of anti-Pakistan rhetoric for two reasons.

First, to deflect attention from the diplomatic failure to mobilise international opinion against Pakistan. And second, to create a suitable ambience for the Hindutva constituency before the Uttar Pradesh polls.


New Delhi, Oct. 6: 
India�s neglect of the Central Asian republics � Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmeinstan � is now proving expensive, the Samata Party believes.

According to the party, these strategically-located former Soviet Republics are important to New Delhi to fight Islamic fundamentalism exported via Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ties with these countries would have helped India fight Islamic militants, the party maintains. Delhi could have also benefited from their huge gas and oil deposits.

If India does not take interest in these countries, the US and Pakistan will, a note prepared at the instance of former defence minister George Fernandes had warned in 1999.

Uzbekistan on Thursday permitted the US to launch military operations from its territory in return for money and a promise that it would help Uzbeks fight Taliban-backed fundamentalists of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which wants to over- throw the country�s secular government.

Barring Tajikistan, all the Central Asian republics are secular and have populations less than that of New Delhi.

Besides, they boast a cent per cent literacy rate and a modern outlook and would, therefore, have been easier to do business with, said the note, prepared by the Samata Party�s international department chairman Shambu Shrivastwa at the request of then defence minister George Fernandes.

The note underlined the strategic importance of these Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries for India. Prepared for the consideration of the foreign ministry, it said these countries were looking to New Delhi for collaboration.

Shrivastwa in his document said India should cultivate the Central Asian countries since they shared their international borders with China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov, a former communist, was the first to visit India showing the way to the rest of the region to follow suit, but New Delhi refused to show interest even after all the Central Asian heads of state had paid a visit.

The note suggested setting up an Indo-Central Asia Forum consisting of some 40 members, 15 from India and five each from these countries.

Apart from security experts, the forum should have industrialists (for developing business ties) and politicians of ruling and opposition parties, the note said.

These newly-independent states did not have proper banking, financial and legal systems and India could help them set up these institutions, Shrivastwa suggested, adding that trade with Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and Europe would have been easier if India had direct access to these countries.

India�s old trade route to Central Asia goes through the historic Khyber Pass.

Relations with these countries would have also helped India minimise laundering of drug money, a major source of funding for separatist militants in the Kashmir Valley and the Northeast.

Afghanistan�s ruling Taliban and Pakistan�s Inter-Services Intelligence play a significant role in facilitating the movement of drugs to Thailand, Myanmar, India, the CIS, Turkey, Europe and the US.


New Delhi, Oct. 6: 
The spate of hoax bomb alerts and VIP visits � starting with that of President Pervez Musharraf and ending with Tony Blair�s today � has taken its toll on the Delhi Police dog squad. The security drill claimed its first victim, Pinky, a Labrador who died last week of a nose-bleed caused by over-exertion.

Social justice minister and animal activist Maneka Gandhi has taken serious note of the problem. She said: �We plan to look into the state of the dog squad and why they are dying due to overwork.�

Ironically, Delhi Police seem to have overlooked the plight of the dogs right under their nose at a time when they are planning a helpline for stray animals. It�s a dog�s life.

In the 22-strong dog squad, Labradors, a favourite with trainers for their keen sense of smell, are used specifically to unearth explosives while German Shepherds and Dobermanns are geared to track down the most wanted.

These dogs are used not only to sniff out explosives in case of a bomb alert, but also comb places to be visited by VIPs � whether they are private homes, public places or party offices. A place is deemed �sanitised� only after the dogs have nosed their way around thoroughly.

Constable Dharampal, attached with the dog squad in the Mandir Marg police station (central Delhi), related how last week, before Madhavrao Scindia�s body was brought to the AICC headquarters, a Labrador named Sai was on the job for an hour, sniffing out every nook and cranny of the sprawling bungalow on 24 Akbar Road.

The dog squad�s brief also extends to aircraft to be used by VIPs for foreign travel.

A typical day in a sniffer dog�s life begins at 5 am. He may be given the Rashtrapati Bhavan �beat�, which requires him to sanitise the area the President uses for his morning walk, including every shrub and plant. The exercise is repeated before the President sets off for his evening stroll.

At 8 am, the morning drill starts with the sniffing out of RDX, plastic explosives and gun powder. This is followed by short bursts of running and jumping. The reward: a breakfast of milk, bread or porridge. The only luxuries for the dog-tired lot are the daily massage and an evening meal of meat.

Although Delhi Police have both female and male dogs, they prefer the latter.


Chennai, Oct. 6: 
At least 17 people have died and 54 others are battling for their lives after consuming illicit arrack last night in the second hooch tragedy to strike Tamil Nadu within a month. Unofficial reports put the toll at 20.

The victims are mostly daily wage earners from Athivakkam and Madurakottur villages near Red Hills on the northern outskirts of Chennai which houses the largest water source for the metropolis.

Coming close on the heels of the Ambattur hooch tragedy last month, which claimed 13 lives, this incident has stunned the administration and enraged villagers, who attacked the house of the supplier of the spurious liquor. The bootlegger had allegedly added a chemical to the mixture to brew a �more heady arrack�.

Police have arrested three persons, including two women, for peddling the arrack in villages around Red Hills.

Police sources confirmed 17 deaths till 6 this evening, including 15 men and two women. Sources in the Government Stanley Hospital said 10 persons were brought dead and 7 others died after being admitted.

Forty victims have been admitted in either a semi-conscious or unconscious state to the hospital�s intensive care unit, and 14 others are being treated in the government hospital here.

Sources said the �stomach wash samples� had been sent for examination to find out the chemical added to the hooch to make it a �much harder drink�. In the Ambattur incident, methanol was believed to have been added to the arrack.


New Delhi, Oct. 6: 
Riding the popular mood of paranoia in the country, the Vajpayee government is confident it can push through a new anti-terrorist Ordinance. However, the draft Bill could still run into rough weather when it is put to vote in the winter session of Parliament in November.

The Bill will have to ensure it does not infringe on fundamental rights. Otherwise, it can be challenged by human rights activists and questioned by the National Human Rights Commission.

Home ministry officials are optimistic that state governments previously opposed to the move have considerably softened their stand since the September 11 terror strikes in the US.

Nervous state governments are now willing to fall in line with home minister L.K. Advani�s views. �We don�t want to violate human rights but only to protect people�s right to live in freedom,� Advani, advocate of a tough anti-terrorist law, has said in the past.

North Block will test the waters by initially introducing an Ordinance. In the present climate of nervousness, the government is hopeful of drumming up political support. Though details of the Ordinance are not known, it will not be very different from the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, which lapsed in 1995. It will arm the security forces with sweeping powers to search and arrest without warrant.

The battlelines are clear. The Congress at the national level has not been in favour of reviving this draconian law.

However, Congress chief ministers may not protest. The Left parties and Mulayam Singh Yadav�s Samajwadi Party will vehemently oppose the Bill. The BJP will rally round Advani, as will the NDA allies. The government is hoping the international focus on terror may just carry the day for it.

The home minister holds a trump card in this situation. Bush-like, he can pronounce: You are either with us or with them (terrorists), labelling those opposed to the Bill as anti-nationals.

Perhaps it may not come to this and the arguments could be different. But in the current hysteria, this could well be a clever ploy for the government to get what it wants.

However, one group which will argue against the Bill is human rights activists. �More stringent measures and more policing will not help. Tada was used as an instrument of terror and it has helped only to alienate the people. We, as a nation, must learn from past mistakes and stop relying on police and paramilitary forces to solve problems,�� said Matthew George, a human rights activist.

But a former additional solicitor-general�s views are diametrically opposite: �The country desperately needs an anti-terrorist law to combat the current threat. We cannot hope to survive if we continue to be soft.�


Patna and Ranchi, Oct. 6: 
As the CBI tightened its noose, Laloo Prasad Yadav raised his political pitch, claiming it would be unsafe for him to stay in the prison of an NDA-ruled state.

But political observers claimed that Laloo was afraid that an attempt would be made to topple his wife�s government if he is jailed for long in Jharkhand.

The chances of a long jail term for him increased as the CBI today sought fresh permission from the Bihar Governor to prosecute Laloo and former Congress chief minister Jagannath Mishra in yet another fodder scam case. The two have been accused of fraudulently withdrawing Rs 45 lakh from the Bhagalpur treasury between 1994 and 1996.

The CBI is also gearing up to get the Governor�s nod to prosecute Laloo and others in the Chaibasa case in which Rs 38 crore had been allegedly siphoned off.

Once these cases are opened along with the 36 others that the Supreme Court yesterday ordered transferred to Jharkhand, the RJD chief�s jail term might get prolonged.

RJD national spokesman Shivanand Tiwari said if Laloo is sent to Jharkhand jail, there could be a �a threat to his life�.

Laloo said the stage seems set for his �permanent exile� in Jharkhand.

Referring to the arrest of L.K. Advani during his Rath Yatra through Bihar, Laloo said: �I had given him (Advani) all facilities, including putting him up at a guest house. I never became vindictive.�

He recalled that when Advani�s wife and daughter had visited Patna, they had been provided with a helicopter to reach the Messanjore dam guest house where Advani was being held.

Spelling out the danger to the RJD chief�s life, Tiwari said: �Laoo is a former chief minister of Bihar. During his tenure he might have taken some decisions in the larger interest that could have some vested interests. They might be in jail. Keeping Laloo as an ordinary prisoner will be a threat to his life.�

Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi had said yesterday that Laloo would be treated like an �ordinary undertrial�.

Laloo�s lawyers strongly protested against Marandi�s remarks to a private TV channel, and warned they would drag the Jharkhand government to court unless Laloo was granted Class I status.

But political observers believe Laloo�s main fear is that Opposition forces would realign in his absence and topple Rabri�s government.

NDA leaders Sushil Modi and Ram Vilas Paswan had reportedly said that shifting Laloo to Ranchi would stop him from controlling his wife�s government in Bihar and acting as de facto chief minister.

Six months ago, Laloo�s party was rocked by a revolt spearheaded by a one-time close aide, Ranjan Yadav. �Ranjan may be lying low like the other rebels in the party. The RJD has got a history of frequent revolts. There�s no stopping one more. That is what Laloo is bothered about,� said Bihar Opposition leader Sushil Modi.

Laloo�s party, however, is not taking any chances. Some RJD leaders are camping in Ranchi to highlight the likely threat to Laloo�s life in case he is jailed there.

But Modi said this outcry is misplaced and was only aimed at extracting more concessions so that Laloo could run Bihar sitting in his cell in Jharkhand.


Patna, Oct. 6: 
Refusing to be cowed down by the ragging unleashed by senior boys, the new batch of girl students at Patna Medical College have hit back hard.

Twice in two days, the freshers thrashed boys on the campus. This morning, girls beat up a boy caught lurking near the ladies� hostel.

Yesterday, two boys were bashed up in the canteen by a group of girls furious about obscene sketches pasted on the college walls. The sketches, accompanied by filthy remarks, were targeted at girl students and even had names of some girls.

When the sketches were reported to the girls� hostel, the students descended on the canteen and, finding two male students sitting there, bolted the doors from inside and started beating them up. The boys were rescued two hours later by a group of teachers led by the principal, D.P. Sinha,

The girls also filed an FIR at the Pirbahore police station about the obscene posters. However, the FIR contained no names.

Boys then went on the rampage, forcing college authorities to suspend classes indefinitely and announce an evacuation of the hostels. The suspension and evacuation notice was cancelled after a meeting between teachers and students.


Dhaka, Oct. 6: 
The participation of the Jamat-e-Islami in the new government in Bangladesh will be something of a historic irony for the nation. For the party had not only opposed the then East Pakistani people�s liberation war in 1971 but actively supported the Pakistan government and the anti-liberation forces.

The new government, headed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader, takes oath next Monday. In its election campaign, the Awami League had appealed to the people to �protect the spirit of the liberation war� by defeating the �razakars�, as the anti-liberation elements are known here.

The Jamat had been a peripheral political force in Bangladesh until this election. In the 1996 elections, it could secure only three seats and about 8 per cent of the popular vote. Its tally of 16 this time is the result of its alliance with the BNP. Its vote share too has nearly doubled this time.

The BNP hesitated in aligning with the Jamat in the past because of the latter�s tainted role in the country�s liberation struggle.

But the arithmetic compulsions of uniting all anti-League votes and the growing Islamic rhetoric of the Jamat forced the BNP�s hands.

Although the BNP leadership maintains that the party�s own massive number in the new Parliament will enable it to keep the Jamat in check, there are other indications as well.

Jamat �Ameer� (president) Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami said yesterday his party remained committed to its goal of �Islamisation� of the whole country. He described the Awami League�s humiliation as the �defeat of un-Islamic forces�.

Political analysts here argue, however, that the BNP will be cautious in leaving greater political space to the Jamat whose influence has been growing through its madrassas and hospitals in rural areas. �It is most unlikely that Khaleda Zia will take the opportunity of her alliance�s two-thirds majority to concede the Jamat demand to change the Constitution and declare Bangladesh an Islamic country,� said BNP spokesman Riazuddin Ahmad.

It may not happen now, but there is little doubt that the Jamat will use its first-ever participation in the government to further promote its Islamic agenda. In a way, that will be taking Bangladesh back to the pre-1971 days in so far as its present secular character is concerned.


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